So Rick Santorum, the comeback kid, comes back to win the Iowa caucuses two weeks after they ended, defeating Mitt Romney in the final count by 34 votes with results from eight precincts still and forever missing. According to the Des Moines Register, “GOP officials discovered inaccuracies in 131 precincts, although not all the changes affected the two leaders. Changes in one precinct alone shifted the vote by 50 — a margin greater than the certified tally.”
This, from a party so obsessed with election security.
Meanwhile, polls show Newt Gingrich making his own bid for the “comeback kid” title, closing the gap with Romney both nationally and in South Carolina as well. His attacks — and Romney’s fumbling response — have for the first time opened up serious doubts about Romney’s general-election electability, which has been the foundation of his campaign.
The Republican theme going into the 2012 elections was that they were defending capitalism, not wealth. There is now real cause to wonder whether Romney is the person who can communicate that distinction.
With a debate scheduled for tonight — probably the last time you’ll see many of the current field on the stage — Gingrich has a final chance to shine in his favorite environment. But he also finds himself under attack from Marianne Gingrich, the second wife he spurned in favor of the younger, blonder Callista. The second Mrs. G. has apparently unloaded on her former husband in an interview with ABC News, and you can expect to see bits and pieces of her interview made public through the day, with the full barrage coming after the debate.
Unlike many, I don’t think the interview will have a huge impact, and I also don’t think it should. Everybody already knows who and what Newt is, and his behavior in this campaign has confirmed that the public image is accurate. You don’t need to dip into his private life to confirm that he is an amoral, opportunistic narcissist; the public record provides more than ample evidence. In fact, it is even conceivable that Gingrich can turn the ABC interview to his advantage, casting himself as the sympathetic victim of a liberal media, which always plays well with the GOP base.
Melodrama aside, the almost certain outcome remains a Romney win in South Carolina and a Romney nomination in Tampa come August, but as the process draws out he continues to suffer long-term damage, some of it self-inflicted. This is the time frame in which his public persona is being created, and once established it will be difficult to shake.
– Jay Bookman